Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well, another crazy day, you drink the night away
And forget about everything
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Sherlock Holmes Museum
Let's wind our way down Baker Street.
Approximately 1 kilometer in length, it's existed since the 18th century, built through what was originally a high class residential area in the Marylebone district of the City of Westminster in London, where Westminster Abbey sits tall and stately, while the crème of historical society go sweeping through its gates. Among other grand historic events, on April 29, 2011, the Abbey oversaw the nuptials exchanged between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Fictional 19th century softshoe Sherlock Holmes called equally fictional 221B Baker Street home. Sadly, beyond all the pomp exists mostly commercial premises anymore, amongst a busy thoroughfare.
But royal weddings and fictitious super sleuths alike don't hold a candle to pushing a location into fame the way a hit song can. A Number One tune about a place can cause mobs to camp out on the doorsteps of stores overnight just to get a glimpse of what they think should be something… even if it turns out it's just a street.
Which makes particular pilgrimages down to Baker Street a bit awkward - nothing really to see here, nothing too exciting to do… no, Sherlock Holmes' address never really existed, as didn't he. A couple of historic events have
happened here - the Lloyds Bank was robbed in 1971, an event that was chronicled in the movie The Bank Job.
Madame Tussaud opened her first waxworks museum on the street in 1835, but it was moved in 1884. The location at 94 Baker Street housed the Beatles' Apple Boutique for a year back in 1967. And singer Dusty Springfield lived on the street in the late '60s. But that's all old news.
Otherwise, it's just a street that a guy named Gerry Rafferty lived on for a short time whilst attempting to get himself extricated from a management deal. During that time, he commuted, unhappily, to London - to a friend's house on Baker Street - from the town in Glasgow where he and his family lived. This resulted in a lot of frustration and a lot of financial problems which underlie every chord on "Baker Street."
The final verse on the song, "when you wake up it's a new morning, the sun is shining, it's a new morning, and you're going - you're going home" speaks to the final resolution of his legal and financial hassles, his exhilaration at being able to go home to Glasgow.
Corporate Baker Street
Still, no article about "Baker Street" would be complete without addressing the ongoing argument over the saxophone solo. It's true, Lisa Simpson did play it in one episode of The Simpsons,
but she did not create it. It's been used in movies such as Good Will Hunting,
but Will did not create it. It's been covered by the Foo Fighters, the London Symphony Orchestra, Rick Springfield, and Waylon Jennings, but none of them created it.
In a 1978 Rolling Stone Magazine
article, Ken Emerson wrote, "At first it was part of the melody, and Rafferty reckoned he'd sing it. Then he tried it on guitar and that didn't sound quite right. Enter Raphael Ravenscroft, a session saxophonist who came highly recommended, and the rest is history – or at least a hit single." Then, in 1979, Rafferty himself told Melody Maker,
"When I started writing the song, that particular line that Raphael plays was the line I started with. I used to sing it to myself. I tried to fit words to it, but in the end I kept it as an instrumental phrase, and then I wrote the song around it. We tried it with various instruments, and as soon as Raphael played it on the saxophone, I knew … 'Ah, there's a bit of magic here.'" That information has been out since 1978 and 1979, but people still inexplicably choose to bicker over it. Time to get past it - it's elementary.
If you're one of them, perhaps you need to wind your own way down Baker Street some time. Just to say you did.
~ Shawna Hansen Ortega
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